Thursday, July 30, 2009

Bryan chemical fire news breaks fast on Twitter

When chemical smoke from a fire that began about noon today at a plant outside Bryan forced an evacuation of the area, news began flowing quickly on Twitter. Some of the most useful accounts to follow (in addition to searching for updates using the #bryanfire hashtag, or just Bryan, which began trending on Twitter about 6 p.m.):

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Dale Rice named new head of A&M journalism

Journalism veteran Dale Rice is the new director of Journalism Studies at Texas A&M University, liberal arts Associate Dean Pamela Matthews confirmed today.

Rice will start Sept. 1, Matthews said, noting that an official announcement will come soon.

In the next couple of days, we'll have a full interview with Rice up on this blog. For now, here's a bit of background:

Rice, currently a lecturer with Journalism Studies, began teaching at A&M in Fall 2008. In an interview with FJSA at that time, he talked about the need to produce journalists who can work across all media platforms and about emphasizing basic reporting skills in his classes.

"... We need journalists who can report rapidly, write quickly, think on their feet and never abandon principles such as fairness and accuracy in the process. That, to me, is why sound journalism education is as important today as it has ever been," Rice said.

Rice also leads the College of Liberal Arts' Student Reporter Project; here's an earlier post from this blog about that program.

Friday, July 24, 2009

FJSA in talks with A&M on using Roland Martin gift

Just wanted to give y'all a quick update: FJSA officers are in the early stages of planning with A&M journalism folks how best to use the $10,000 surprise donation given by Roland Martin '91 last fall.

What's next: A slate of ideas that will address a variety of needs and also help fulfill Martin's desire to have A&M graduates producing journalism fluently in new media and other platforms.

More coming as it develops!

Roussel writes of Cronkite's Houston ties

Former White House deputy press secretary Peter Roussel, who has taught at A&M, wrote a piece for the Houston Chronicle about the years when Walter Cronkite learned his craft at Houston newspapers, headlined "Cronkite never forgot Houston roots." A snippet:

In his autobiography, A Reporter's Life, Cronkite writes about those days, including his impressions when he first reported for work at the Press: “I had a feeling that I had reached the pinnacle of journalistic success.” Little did he realize the heights he would ultimately scale in the profession. He points out that that newspaper was one of the venues where he learned about accuracy in reporting, a standard that would be a hallmark of his work. “The year on the Press was a learning time … the serious lessons of daily journalism.”

For much of his career he had a front row seat at the unfolding of epic events: World War II, the Nuremberg trials, the national political conventions, the birth of the space program and men walking on the moon. It was an incredible span of time, and for good chunks of it he delivered the pages of history to our living rooms as CBS' anchorman. Through it all he never forgot Houston, including the experiences and people he had known here even as events continued to propel his way to journalistic greatness.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ryan '08: Covering Madoff for news radio in NYC

(This entry is #6 in our series on summer 2009 Aggie journalism interns.)

Recent graduate Kenny Ryan '08, who was the 2008-09 opinion editor for the Battalion and wrote for the city desk before that, is interning this summer at WOR710 in New York. I asked him to send some news about what he's doing, along with any advice he could pass along, and he kindly wrote up the following, which includes near-brushes with Bernie Madoff and Bon Jovi:

WOR710 is a news talk station located on New York City's Manhattan Island; it's just between the WTC site and Wall Street. I intern for the news desk and spend my days scampering all across the city as I cover press conferences and conduct interviews, and occasionally also take pictures or write copy for the web site. Once I'm back in the news room I edit the tape so the audio can be used for their hourly news casts. Although the internships hours are technically only 9-1, I almost never leave that early and will stay at work as long as possible until there's nothing left to cover. One morning my boss was shocked to see I had been at work 10 hours the previous night; the longer I'm working, the more I'm learning is how I figure it.

The most exciting event I've covered so far was just this last Monday (June 29) when they sent me out to cover the conclusion of the Bernie Madoff trial at the NYC federal courthouse. It was an absolute circus; the sidewalk in front of the court house was covered in journalists, the major news networks had their field stars set up across the street, helicopters were even circling overhead. I was able to finagle myself into the midst of the pack as we all interviewed the Madoff victims who had come to see the verdict, and as the trial ended there was a slight thrill to being among the first people to know that Madoff had gotten his full 150 years in jail. The only unfortunate note was that Madoff and his lawyers never came out to give us a statement; the police on scene told the collected media that Madoff had sneaked away through the back door earlier as they put away the police barriers and took away the microphone podium. Most of the journalists left at this point, but feeling diligent I decided to ask the handful of journalists who had been behind the building covering the back door if Madoff had left, which they said he hadn't. I stayed with the building until the office called me home to work on other things, but had I been able to stick around longer I would have been able to see him slinking away past the remaining cameras later on.

Best story on the job so far without a doubt came one of my first few weeks at work. NYC and other major cities up here are supplied by the AP with a Daybook that lists all the interesting events happening in the city so journalists know whats worth covering. One morning I opened it up, looking for news to cover, and I noticed that there was going to be a charity event that night featuring Bill Clinton as a keynote speaker, and more importantly Bon Jovi as entertainment. I asked my boss if I could cover it and he said that if I made the arrangements he would give me a press pass, so I made the necessary calls and voila, I spent the evening rocking out to Bon Jovi no more than 50 feet from the stage. It was unforgettable!

So yea, that's more than a few lines, but I hope it works for you! NYC itself has been a joy to live in over the summer, especially every time a Texan calls to tell me about their hundred'degree weather as I relax outdoors in the mid-70s.

Oh, and as for how did I land this internship: I've always wanted to spend some time living in a major city, especially NYC. Initially I sent out my resume looking for a job to newspapers, radio stations, and TV stations in all the major cities in the Northeast, along the west coast and around Texas. When nothing materialized, I repeated the process but this time looking for an internship. WOR called me out of the blue one day and conducted an interview over the phone. They asked me how often I check the news, and I told them every spare moment of my day I'm up on stories from my cell phone, and that sold them on the idea of taking me on for the summer.

Years ago I hosted my own local sports talk show in CS with my brother and then a friend as a cohost and I had enjoyed the experience, so getting a taste of news radio was something I had always wanted to do. This has without a doubt been a great summer experience for me. Now I just need to update my resume and land a real job out there somewhere!

Advice to students: Learn as much as you can about everything! My second day at the internship I was working as a photographer at a NY state senators press conference as one of the WOR desk assistants showed me how to use their sound equipment, that was my first time taking pictures as a journalist, and they ended up online. I also ended up writing the copy on the story with the DA that day, as well as helping edit the audio. Be familiar with as many tools as possible because you never know when you will find yourself with one in your hand and an opportunity to use it.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Steffy '86 on CNBC tonight at 7:45 about economy

Houston Chronicle business writer Loren Steffy '86 has been appearing with a few other business reporters on "CNBC Reports" of late and will be doing so again tonight, as I just learned from his Twitter feed (http://twitter.com/lsteffy).

One of the topics, he says, will be "Are Americans growing impatient with Obama over the economy?"

Here's the video of his appearance from last Monday, in which health care reform was among the topics.

Looking and sounding good, big guy! I dig the scholarly setting; those appear to be real books and everything.

Turner '10: Covering serial killings in North Carolina

(This entry is #5 in our series on summer 2009 Aggie journalism interns.)

The Battalion's new media editor for this fall, Calli Turner '10, is interning at the Gastonia Gazette in Gaston, N.C., where she's reporting both features and news in addition to shooting and editing video.

Recently, in fact, she's been covering the Gaffney, S.C., serial killings: This link goes to a video overview she edited, from which more of her videos on that topic and others can be found.

I asked Turner, a senior English (rhetoric track) major and history minor who'll graduate in December, to tell us a bit about how she learned her video skills, and about herself and her internship, and she was kind enough to respond:

I learned to edit video from the 2008-2009 New Media Editor Sarah Linebaugh, who came to The Battalion from KBTX. We started the webcast together, which was our endeavor to relaunch the new media desk after a hiatus. She shot and edited, and I reported the stories. Eventually, I switched over to behind the camera and began shooting and editing, which is now my favorite place to be! In the fall I'll be able to train the editors and reporters in video, so I'm really looking forward to that.


I started at The Battalion January of my freshman year as a copy editor. After that I served as the city editor, and this past year I worked as a copy editor, designed the sports and front page, wrote for the city desk and helped to relaunch our new media desk. I always find myself falling in love with a new aspect of the newsroom, so I tend to wear many hats.

I received my internship through The Institute for Humane Studies, which primarily places interns with Freedom Communications papers. Through my internship, I attended a week-long journalism seminar in June at Bryn Mawr in Pennyslvania. I really enjoyed being able to meet and speak with such talented professionals, such as Gretchen Morgenson of The New York Times and Megan McArdle of The Atlantic. We also had former White House Senior Economic Adviser Korok Ray on hand to teach seminars in welfare economics, microeconomics, macroeconomics and the financial crisis.

I also walked away from the seminar with good news for my fellows Aggies — almost every speaker said their No. 1 advice is to not major in journalism. They said it was more valuable to go and learn something — a foreign language, economics, art history, anything. If you really love journalism, then you'll find a place that will let you develop your skills and your clips.

I'm interning at The Gaston Gazette in Gastonia, N.C. I'm writing feature stories, news reports and shooting and editing videos. I've also had the chance to help others in the newsroom learn video editing. It was a definite change to go from The Battalion to The Gazette, because my first day on the job I found myself shooting a video with just a handheld camera — not the professional camera, tripod and wireless microphone I was spoiled with before. I began shooting video simply because I like learning new things, but now I find the skill more and more in demand, so it has helped to receive many of my internship offers this summer. I really cannot say enough about how valuable multimedia skills are for today's journalists.

I write a lot of local feature stories, but I also have two in-depth projects I'm working on for this weekend. One I am really excited for is an economic analysis for Gaston County in comparison to the other 99 counties in North Carolina, and also the economic predicitions for 2013.

In the fall I will return to The Battalion and serve as the new media editor, and afterward, I'll cross my fingers and hope to find a job.

This is the link to the video I produced on my first day at The Gazette.
My favorite video this summer is a feature on a Gaston resident who turned his yard into a rose garden.
For this video/story package, I was able to ride around town in a smart car (the video is linked on the right).

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Alvarado '10, Crump '10: In NY with Dan Rather

(This entry is #4 in our series on summer 2009 Aggie journalism interns.)

Nicole Alvarado '10 and Daniel Crump '10 are interning with Dan Rather at his HDNet news program, "Dan Rather Reports," in New York. They are the first interns at the show who are not from Sam Houston State (Rather's alma mater) -- and that's due in large part to Alvarado, as you'll read below. (Alvarado was the Batt's editor-in-chief for 2008-2009; Crump has done podcasts for the Batt.)

Crump and Alvarado (pictured below with another HDNet intern and fellow Aggie Kenny Ryan in Times Square) are getting a wide range of assignments, including some directly from Rather.

From left are Heather Itzen, Daniel Crump and Nicole Alvarado, all interns at HDNet's "Dan Rather Reports," and May 2009 A&M graduate Kenny Ryan, interning at New York's WOR 710 NewsTalk Radio. Itzen is from Sam Houston State University.

I asked Alvarado to talk a little bit about the internship so far, what the best experiences have been, whether she has any advice to pass along, etc., and she was kind enough to write about it for us. Here it is!

So far, we have done a wide variety of things. As far as traditional, daily journalism goes, they just make sure that we are up-to-date on the goings-on of the world. However, they don't send us out on assignments since the show itself is more of an investigative endeavour (even though production has halted for the month of July, yet will resume in August, under mandate by Mark Cuban, the owner of HDnet), and often focuses on international pieces.

What we are mostly involved in is a wide range of learning experiences that vary from making copies of episodes to DVDs to have for a library, to running errands for Mr. Rather, to attending recording sessions with him for the show. However, our duties have mostly fallen within the department of research, as far as the show is concerned. That, and every once in a while Mr. Rather will assign us individual assignments of his own accord. For example, yesterday he had us all watch "Nothing But The Truth" and write up a 2-page response on the issues of privacy and source protection in journalism.

I am LOVING my time here in New York. This kind of journalism is exactly what I want to do and I love that this city literally never seems to sleep.

As for how I obtained this internship, the executive producer of the show, Wayne Nelson, came and talked to the staff of The Battalion, the student newspaper at A&M, for one of our 400 meetings. At the time, I was editor-in-chief of the paper, and as I was listening to him describe what the show was about, I became entranced with the idea behind it. After he spoke, I approached him about it and asked him a few more questions, then invited him back to the newsroom, where I proceeded to show him my resume and portfolio, then hound him until I had heard something back from him. Needless to say, I got the internship, which was a phenomenal opportunity because normally, there is only one intern who is secured through a program that Mr. Rather set up at Sam Houston decades ago. We are the first interns not to come through that program.

The best experience has just been how intent everyone here is to us learning how to do everything. Advice I'd give to aspiring journalists: never give up. Pursue something with all you've got, whether it be a story, a source or just a job, plain and out. Don't take "No" for an answer. I effectively got Mr. Nelson to set up an internship program that wasn't even in existence for this show, but it wasn't easy. Try and accumulate all the experience you can because if there's one thing everyone is looking for, it's someone who can do everything and do it well.

Best experience? Man....there are so many. The other day, when we went with Mr. Rather to a stand-up, when he records the introductions, segues and conclusions to the show in a studio, they allowed the interns to sit in afterwards and filmed us reading the first segment from the teleprompter. That was a really cool experience. That, and honestly, just going into work every day and realizing that holy cow, I work with Dan Rather. The man comes into the office, knows my name, seems to take a real, personal interest in his interns, is always thinking of fun stuff for us to do...one of my favorite things he does is every time he sees us, he always greets us by name and asks us what we've learned today. He seems so adamant that one never stop learning, and earnest in his efforts to help us grow. About a week ago we watched a documentary on him called "Dan Rather: A Reporter Remembers" and it was simply phenomenal. The man has seriously been present at every major historical event since Hurricane Carla--he is an icon, an integral part of history and a milestone marker for journalism. If I could ever be half the reporter he is, I'd feel fulfilled.
I have a blog that I've been keeping about the stuff we do both at work and our experiences outside of it, in New York. The link to that is: http://n16alvarado.wordpress.com. On there, I have the sites for my photos and videos blogrolled, so people can look at those as well. I update about once a week and try to keep people up-to-date on all the tasks I do at work, as well.


I personally worked on the "Private Prisons" episode that aired just a few short weeks ago, as in, the research I did directly contributed to the production of the show. Also, that was the first episode with the interns' names in the credits, which was pretty exciting, needless to say.

Friday, July 17, 2009

See where even more of your fellow Aggies are

Who's at the Fort Worth Star-Telegram? Who's at KTRK-TV Houston? KTVI in St. Louis? Crown/Random House in New York?

More than 140 folks have now joined our LinkedIn group, and we add more members every week. (There are 275 in our Facebook group, with some overlap.)

Join the group and view this page to see members listed with their occupations conveniently listed below their names.

Students are more than welcome to join! You can start making contacts early :)

Your group managers screen applications for membership with the goal in mind of not allowing the group to be used for non-Aggie purposes. (The mind boggles slightly at what "Aggie purposes" might be, but you know what I mean.)

LinkedIn now offers both Jobs and Discussions for each group, where members can post. Recent topics tossed up for discussion have been how to make Aggiecareers.com more useful for communicators and a member seeking Aggie communications professionals in South Florida.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

FJSA Fall Reception will be Sept. 5 in Cain Hall

Your FJSA officers scrambled -- since the MSC is under construction -- and got an alternate location for the Fall Reception. Over in Cain Hall, there's a room the Battalion frequently uses, and we'll be able to meet there (thanks also to Bob Wegener of Student Publications).

So mark yer calendars: Sept. 5, 2009, in Cain Hall, we'll meet, elect officers and honor the next inductee into FJSA's Hall of Honor.

That's the day the Aggies begin their football season by playing New Mexico, a game that's currently set for 6 p.m. So the FJSA events will be timed around that; and hopefully the sun will be setting on those of us sweating and fainting in the stands.

Watch this blog for details as they get nailed down as to time, events, parking, snacks, etc.!

Yours in the drive for cheese cubes,

Casanova '10: Next Batt editor at Abilene paper

(This entry is #3 in our series on summer 2009 Aggie journalism interns.)

Amanda Casanova '10, a senior English major from Lufkin and the Battalion's 2009-2010 editor-in-chief, is interning at the Abilene Reporter-News.

I asked her for a few words about the experience so far and she kindly obliged:

I had never even visited West Texas before this summer. I expected tumbleweeds, cowboy hats and scorpions. Instead, I got wind farms, great stories and some front page placements (maybe, also a tumbleweed or two). For the past month or so, I have been interning with the Abilene Reporter-News, covering mostly general assignments for the 128-year old paper.

I have managed to track storm damage in small town Big Country, chase down a pair of vacationing teachers who were in the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. when a gunman opened fire in June, interviewed a former Women Airforce Service pilot and incited community controversy with a story about a young man who posted signs around town apologizing to his ex-girlfriend.

Here are a few of my favorites:
I will be returning to Aggieland in the fall to serve as the 2009-2010 editor-in-chief of the Battalion and I am absolutely thrilled to bring back some West Texas to the Battalion.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Series on our students' summer 2009 internships

Stay tuned for this full series of posts on A&M students' summer 2009 internships:

June 27 Rojas '10 interning at the Washington Post
July 2 Woolbright '12: Working crime beat at SA Express-News
July 16 Casanova '10: Next Batt editor at Abilene paper
July 18 Alvarado '10, Crump '10: In NY with Dan Rather
July 20 Turner '10: Covering serial killings in North Carolina
July 22 Ryan '08: Covering Madoff for news radio in NYC

If you're an Aggie interning at a journalism outlet, get ahold of me! I want to write about you too :)

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Woolbright '12: Working crime beat at SA Express-News

Matt Woolbright '12 is interning at the San Antonio Express-News, his hometown paper. He's on the crime team, and says he's greatly enjoying monitoring the scanners and working breaking news on tight deadlines.

Woolbright described the typical pace: He heads out to the scene with the goal of reporting back within five minutes to give enough basics to get an item up on the Web. Then he phones back every five minutes or so to add details as he develops the story.

When I talked to him Monday, he had just grabbed a bite of dinner after a day that included contributing to the E-N coverage of a gas line fire which began with an explosion that critically injured a worker; it left 87 customers without power. The E-N had the story posted online and updated at least twice before the fire was put out, and then posted the wrapup.

In addition to the cops beat, usually he'll work as a general assignment reporter one night a week, Woolbright said.

His internship began June 1, and he's had 10 bylines in the paper so far. His first story is one of his favorites: "Air Force sergeant returns early, surprises daughter." It drew community response, was picked up by national outlets and drew many comments on the paper's Web site.

The family commented afterward, Woolbright said, that "I was able to capture their joy and really translate to the outside world how happy they were."

Woolbright, a sophomore, began on the Battalion staff his freshman year, and this fall he'll be the Batt's managing editor for news.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Bishop '93, Cardinale '94, Tubularman in Hullabalog

Last month, Mike Snyder '91 started Hullabalog: The Blog for Aggie Professionals. Since June 4 he's been featuring various Aggie professionals, and recently included Jon Bishop '93, a journalism grad who is now assistant general manager for the Durham Bulls, and Boomer Cardinale '94, creator of "Tubularman," a cartoon strip that began in the Battalion in 1990.

"Tubularman" will be a regular feature of Hullabalog, and Mike is looking for contributors for the blog as well as for Aggies on Twitter (he's @msnyder4). Nice-lookin' blog, Mike!